Nothing prepares you for the CCR1 Residence. Cedar Creek Lake, located about 55 miles southeast of Dallas, is well-known for its vacation homes and casual atmosphere. So it was no surprise for Paul Field, Assoc. AIA, and Braxton Werner, AIA, partners at Wernerfield Architects, to receive a design brief asking simply for a weekend retreat with “four bedrooms and a porch.” The surprise is what Wernerfield made of that concise design brief.
Set in a laid-back neighborhood in Trinidad, Tex., CCR1 blends in with the bungalows and modest structures nearby. From the street, it’s easy to miss the house, even when you’re looking for it. Cross the entrance gate, though, and you’re rewarded with a stunning view: mature pine trees; courtyards; covered porches; and the bold, striking horizontal volume of the weekend retreat.
The lakeside house, as Texas Society of Architects 2015 Design Awards juror Alex Krieger, FAIA, described it, “has an elegant and quiet serenity, where the horizontality of the landscape and of the building contrasts with the wonderful vertical forest where it sits.” This relationship between the house and landscape is pivotal. In an unusual reversal, the owners engaged landscape architect David Hocker before contacting Wernerfield. Encouraged by the clients, landscape architect and architects embarked on a process of true collaboration from the very beginning. Acclaimed interior design architect Emily Summers joined the team later on.
The result is an environment where nothing feels disconnected or out of place. Take, for instance, the long, stone wall, which bisects the site as it weaves through the majestic pine trees planted decades ago by the owner when he was still a young man. Resembling the boundary-marker of a far more ancient site, the wall brings a Cartesian order to an otherwise-fluid setting, organizing the various courts, pavilions and gardens, the entry drive, the main house, and even the pier that juts into the lake.
The lake and the possibility of unobstructed views would tempt any
architect to orient every room of the house toward the water, especially in sun-drenched Texas. But CCR1 resists the obvious. Although generous floor-to-ceiling windows offer views of the waterfront, the architects weighed other considerations just as judiciously. “We needed to address the lake,” says Paul Field, “but it gets windy sometimes, and therefore the idea is to have the outdoor pavilion, the sunken courtyard, and playing courts away from the waterfront, on the protected land side of the house.” The strategy is far more than a pragmatic response to natural conditions, and as such creates a clever series of outdoor rooms, all anchored to and extending from the main house.
The basic palette of CCR1 is simple: cast-in-place concrete, Corten steel, wood, and glass. The cast-in-place concrete is used in its most genuine way, and it is refreshing to see a concrete surface where the grain of the formwork hasn’t been erased and retains its tactile richness. That unpolished quality becomes even more apparent when the concrete meets the sharp edges of plaster walls, of fine woodwork or the crisp frames of the six-ft-wide windows. Juxtaposing the rough and the organic with the precise is part of Wernerfield’s deliberate design strategy. It creates an interplay of different materialities that highlight each other’s contrasting attributes.
I visited CCR1 on a cloudy day and with an analytical mindset, but its warmth and serene beauty immediately overtook me. The place surprises in the best possible way: It is easy to picture kids running around with smiles on their faces, people sitting and chatting on the porch and enjoying the lake breeze, or a family gathered around the fireplace in the sunken courtyard on a starry night — which all goes to show one thing: It’s amazing what you can get when you ask talented architects for “four bedrooms and a porch.”
Eurico R. Francisco, AIA, is a design principal with HDR.
Originally published in the September/October 2015 issue of Texas Architect.